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Transatlantic's Father & Son DPs Wolfgang and Sebastian Thaler on Recreating the 1940s Together for Netflix

Abe Friedtanzer, BELOW THE LINE

May 3, 2023

Transatlantic features a very deliberate look that uses colors to signify connection and truly capture the time period in a way that feels fresh rather than forced. Directors of Photography Wolfgang and Sebastian Thaler worked together to make the show look just right, with the added challenge of doing it in HDR.

Below the Line spoke to the father-son duo, who frequently passed endearing compliments back and forth and tossed answers to each other while discussing their professional collaboration, which involved taking the reins on separate episodes and seeing Sebastian step in for his father when he got sick at one point during the shoot.

BTL: The color palette is very intentional. Was that in the script, or was that one of your contributions to the show?

Wolfgang: Let me start, and then Sebastian can continue. It was not scripted. We had the freedom to create our style and our visual meaning and fantasy. For this, we wanted the show not to look very high-class, glossy, or digital. We wanted it to look like good film stock, good film material. Sebastian created his own lookup table, and he’ll tell you how that works. We agreed in the preparation for this show that we didn’t want to have these old-style, no-color images that should remind [audiences] of the 1940s because the world at that time was very colorful.

We created a very modern style from colors, which could remind [us] that it’s a historical piece with this deep blue color, the deep blue moonlight in the night. This blue color was very special, and it should symbolize the longing people have [who] were rescued from the Nazis. You only see this color on the seaside, not even the sky, and in the night.

Sebastian: Our approach was not to have these desaturated colors for a period piece. The manufacturers of digital cameras try to reproduce the real world in color, and it’s not often what the eyes want to see if you have it on a screen. My approach was to really analyze different film stocks to understand how the colors are rendered and influence each other in a frame.

This was transported to the show so that we have a modern look, but the audience can still get the feeling that it’s a period piece with modern art. The main goal was to reproduce the colors, but not in a modern way, referencing how people know it historically [and] how films looked, so this is the way that we wanted to present the show. It’s a period piece with modern elements in it.

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